Monday, January 31, 2005

The Mothes!

Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing, too, as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues.
-- Plotinus

Aliyah arrived back in Northampton, in five days going from temperatures that reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Kuthur (after all, it was winter!) to minus 7 in Northampton. It was hard for her to re-adapt, as it has been for me, and not only because of the weather. She immediately began a course in medieval philosophy, and one of the first readings was in Plotinus, the 2nd Century BC philosopher who wrote in Greek (and was, it is said, familiar and influenced by Indian philosophy.)

Coming back from Kuthur, I think the great culture shock for both of us is not so much from seeing "the horrors of the tsunami" (as horrible as they were), but from us being so keenly aware, on a daily basis, of the beauty of all kinds delineated by Plotinus. Yes, there is the beauty of sight, especially those of us who love the lushness of the tropics; and the music of the birds and the bees (even if not of the Ayyappa music at 4 a.m.!), but mostly of the minds "that lift themselves to a higher order in the conduct of life". Yes, it is too bad that it takes an event like a tsunami, and in a land so far away, to be aware of it. It’s about as far from "Desperate Housewives" (the latest piece of salacious trash on American tv) or "The Bachelorette" as one can possible imagine.

But if one looks hard enough, and gets beyond the humdrum of one’s daily life, one can find it at home as well. It’s just that translating what we have heard, and seen, and tasted, and smelled, and BEEN is difficult to explain. I’m about to do my third presentation on the tsunami/LAFTI tomorrow, and it is so difficult to pick out what is really important, and what can really be communicated!

I have been helped along by the kids, and people who really care. There is a group of homeschooled teenagers in Georgia who raised money through a hot-dog fundraiser. I don’t think there are any Tamil proverbs about funds raised from frankfurters, but we thank you all the same (and maybe more so!)

Last evening, my wife and I drove to Seattle for the CD debut of a new rock band "The Mothes", featuring a group of young people ages 10-14, and led by a 13-year-old homeschooler. They performed as a benefit for LAFTI’s housing program. It was so moving just to meet people – YOUNG people – so ready to pitch in, and so ready to train themselves to that greater beauty that is part of their, and our, inner nature. Yes, the funds are nice to have (and I am looking forward to sending a good-sized check to Amma tomorrow, and hope you are, too, hint, hint…), but more important is the business of going about becoming the men and women we are really meant to be.

So…with apologies to Aliyah, who will probably end up having to write a paper about these things, I want to quote some more Plotinus:

Therefore the Soul must be trained to the habit of remarking, first, all noble pursuits, then the works of beauty produced not by the labor of the arts but by the virtue of men known for their goodness; lastly, you must search the souls of those that have shaped these beautiful forms. But how are you to see into a virtuous soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statute that is to be made more beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labor to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there should shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.

Gotta run! I’ve got a pot of sambar bubbling on the stove. I’ll let you all know how it turns out.

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YO David Albert and Aliyah Shanti !!
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